Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Howard's Horrors: The Black Stone!

Hey all, Luke here! Just finished another REH story last night, The Black Stone.
Here's the Roquefort Raider's interpretation of that strange obelisk...

Pretty ominous, huh? This widely-lauded "Cthulhu mythos" story was first published in Weird Tales in November of '31... Right out of the gate I noticed that REH set a very different tone from both Haunter of the Ring and Pigeons from Hell (the other straight horror stories from REH that I've read)... REH "grounds" this story with a backdrop of mythical books and poetry that surround an unnatural, perhaps mystical, obelisk in the rural landscape of Hungary. 

Needless to say, the nameless narrator of the story can't be happy with just reading about such weird landmarks, he is compelled to take a little holiday to investigate this obelisk... And did I mention it happens to be around the time of the summer solstice?

Once darkness falls, the story takes on a dream-like quality. And as the events of that night build to a fever-pitch, the story turns into a blood-curdling nightmare! This tale has by far the most striking and horrific act(s) of violence that I've read by REH, though I would say not gratuitous in the least.

I think this is a tremendous story! While there are arguments to be made about its derivative qualities (see this well-written essay by Price), I am of the mind that this is as much a tale that exhibits "Howardian" themes as those typically associated with Lovecraft.... Without spoiling too much, there is a heavy reliance on civilization and race, which I think is a nice contrast with the theme of doomed familial relations and heritage that are more commonly acknowledged Lovecraftian tropes. 

If you've read this story, what do you think? Sound off in the comments section below!

I give this story a hearty recommendation. It's free on Project Gutenburg or, if you're on the hunt for an audio retelling of the story, check out an older post by SFF Audio. They give some great shout-outs to podcasts that narrated the The Black Stone. Their post also presents some additional art inspired by the story! 

And on that note, I'll leave you with the cover art for Bantam's 1979 edition of the "Wolfshead" collection... Who knows what that being that lurks on the top of the dread black stone?

And from when?!?!?!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Episode 09 - Howard's Horrors: The Haunter of the Ring and Pigeons From Hell (or Zuvembies Just Wanna Have Fun...)

Oh, greetings! I didn't notice you were there! I was just admiring this ring... Do you like it? I found it at auction last week. Isn't it curious? Shaped like a serpent eating its own tail, it is. Eyes with gems that glow, see? Like an unholy fire... You know, they say this ring belonged once to a wizard, long ago, the ill-fated Thoth-Amon himself! It is written in Unaussprechlichen Kulten of the dark and terrible magics Thoth-Amon wrought with this ring. They say that the ring "was found in a nighted tomb a league beneath the earth, forgotten before the first man crawled out of the slimy sea..." If you believe such things... But may as well believe in this passage dealing with voodoo and the creation of zuvembies! And you don't... do you?!
My ring... (Artist Unknown)
Our first Howardian Horror episode is stacked with two tales of terror! You should download it here! First, we tackle The Haunter of the Ring, first published in the June 1934 issue of Weird Tales (read it on WikiSource!) We follow up that discussion with one of our new favorite horror stories, Pigeons From Hell (read it on Project Gutenberg!). This latter story was published posthumously by Weird Tales in 1938. From our perspectives, we've always known Howard as a visionary in the pulps, and progenitor of the sword and sorcery genre. But, the man had a keen eye for horror as well! We hope you enjoyed these stories as much as we did!
Check out Amazon if you're looking for a discount-priced copy of Those Across the River or Twilight... Both are great! 
He heard the call of the zuvembie... Art by Robert Sanker
Happy Halloween!
Beginning theme: "Grave Blow" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Ending theme: "Conan the Barbarian Theme for Piano". Arrangement of  "Anvil of Crom" by Basil Poledouris, from the Conan the Barbarian: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Original Score: (c) 1982 Basil Poledouris; Original Album: (c) 2010 Prometheus Records. Used without permission.

Thanks for listening!

Questions? Comments? Curses? Email us! (thecromcast at gmail dot com)

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Art Party Friday

Hello Cromrades! It is I, Jon! I am here to show off some cool Howard inspired art I have found in my wanderings on the internet. If you have any art you wish to share, be you the creator or just an admirer, please do email us at with the image and source and we will try to feature it here on the blog! Also, please visit one or all of the sites for these talented folks. You can always find art for purchase, prints, or even coffee mugs to buy!

Conan by Caanan White (currently the artist on Uber from Avatar Press)

Red Sonja #1 variant cover by Stephanie Buscema (granddaughter of John Buscema)

Conan by James Harren

Solomon Kane by Michael Dialynas

Crom versus Ymir by Breogan

Cover to Pigeons from Hell by Nathan Fox

That's all for this week. Of course Pigeons from Hell is featured last as it will be a big chunk of our next episode:

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's a zuvembie attack!

Another spine-tingling episode is in the works...

Until then, check out some Gene Colan art from Strange Tales #171! And dig into that old stack of horror comics you have laying around the house!

What are some of your favorites?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Guest Contribution: Gods of the North, or, How to Interpret a Lusty Conan.

What follows are the first impressions REH's Conan by Michael Skvarla, descendant of the Norsemen, and friend of the podcast...

"Gods of the North" was the first Conan / R.E.Howard story I read. I was initially thrown off because Howard refers to Conan as Amra, the story wasn't broken into chapters like other Conan stories, and it wasn't published in Weird Tales. It's therefore perhaps not the best Conan story to start off with, though I did enjoy the writing and subsequently read more of Howard's works.

My first impression after reading the story is that Conan was really "rapey" - the whole premise of the story is that he's slogging miles and miles through the snow to have his way with Atali who, while she is teasing him to chase her, doesn't really want to have him. Wikipedia says it's possibly the earliest Conan story chronologically. If Conan is going have his way with the nymph under his own volition, then that sets up the other, later (chronologically) stories for Conan to develop a sense of morality. He still has lots of women as he gets older, but he seems much less forceful.

However, while Wikipedia states "Gods of the North" is the first story chronologically, a case can be made that it's not. The large black man that tries to kill Conan in the dungeon in "The Scarlet Citadel" refers to him as Amra - in that story it's stated that "the black [man] gave Conan the name Amra, the Lion—by which the Cimmerian had been known to the Kushites in his piratical days", suggesting that “Gods of the North” happens after Conan's pirate days, such as in "The Pool of the Black One." If this is true it discredits the idea of Conan developing morals as he grows older as he demonstrated he can be nice to (or at least not rape on sight) women in "The Pool of the Black One."

It might also be that Atali can enthrall men like the Sirens of Greek mythology can. There is some evidence for this in that the old man at the end of the tale said he tried to follow her years earlier after a battle but couldn't because of his wounds - even near death he was compelled to follow her.Also Atali has been killing men and offering their hearts to her father for years (at least we're led to believe this, given the old man tried to follow her when he was young). Presumably at least one man would have been able to not follow her across the barren wastes if she only lured them based on her beauty alone and didn't compel them to follow. This second interpretation makes Conan much less "rapey" as he can't control his lust and drive to have her. It also speaks to his strength - of the countless men Atali has lured to their deaths Conan is the only one who, even after the exhaustion of battle, can follow her miles and miles in hip-deep snow, have strength to kill her giant brothers, and then catch her.

In fact, only a god can save her.

I personally prefer the second interpretation, that Atali is Siren-like. Not because it absolves Conan from being a rapist, but because it fits the evidence we're given in the story better.

You Gettin' Yer Scare On Yet???

If you haven't started yet, then check out this adaptation of Pigeons from Hell in the old TV series, Thriller! Thanks for the heads-up, Gary!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Episode 08 - The Frost Giant's Daughter (or, Gods of The North)

"...To fields of the dead she comes, and shows herself to the dying! Myself when a boy I saw her, when I lay half-slain on the bloody field of Wolraven. I saw her walk among the dead in the snows, her naked body gleaming like ivory and her golden hair unbearably bright in the moonlight. I lay and howled like a dying dog because I could not crawl after her. She lures men from stricken fields into the wastelands to be slain by her brothers, the ice-giants, who lay men's red hearts smoking on Ymir's board..."

Hear now of a time in our hero's life, when he was very young, when rage and passion overtook his heart! Hear now of the meeting between Conan, the Cimmerian, and Atali, the Frost Giant's Daughter! And woe to you if you encounter her, in the frozen wastes of the North! Download the episode here!

The Frost Giant's Daughter has a murky publication history. It was rejected by Weird Tales and submitted to The Fantasy Fan where it was published as Gods of the North. Years later, L. Sprague de Camp released a version of it titled The Frost Giant's Daughter, published in Fantasy Fiction in 1953. This version was extensively rewritten. The version we read is from The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Del Rey. 

Interested in some of the mythology behind this story? Check out this link with some of the info Jonathan mentions in the episode... Then just get lost in a myriad of great Norse stories.

Interested in some great audio recordings of this story? Check out the these episodes from Podcastle, Athena Audio Theater Company, and Protecting Project Pulp.

Next time, we're getting scary! October is Cromtober here at The Cromcast! Howard not only invented the sword and sorcery genre, but made some great contributions to the horror genre as well! Read your Howard Horror for the end of October! Next time, we'll be taking a short break from The Cimmerian and discussing The Haunter of the Ring (read it here), as well as Pigeons from Hell (read it here). 

Beginning theme: "Sudden Defeat" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Ending theme: "Double 8Bit Remix - Conan The Barbarian Theme & Prologue". Found at Arrangement of  "Anvil of Crom" by Basil Poledouris, from the Conan the Barbarian: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Original Score: (c) 1982 Basil Poledouris; Original Album: (c) 2010 Prometheus Records. Used without permission.

Thanks for listening!

Questions? Comments? Curses? Email us! (thecromcast at gmail dot com)

Follow us on Twitter!

Subscribe to our feed on FeedBurner! Or, check us out on iTunes!